By Joseph Dada
The election of national officers of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) scheduled for December 9, this year may be a party affair but it has generated a lot of public interest.
This is not surprising, anyway, because the social and economic uncertainties the country is going through have made many Nigerians to begin to search for an alternative platform of governance. It appears that the present All Progressives Congress (APC) controlled administration does not have the solutions to the mass poverty and fast deteriorating standard of living in the land even as it is seen to be trying hard to come up with palliatives.
The attention of the people is naturally shifting to the PDP because it had been in the saddle before and for all its faults – both the acknowledged and the alleged – under its watch, Nigerians did not find themselves in this kind of hardship that seems to have no foreseeable expiry or receding date. Hope for better conditions, for most Nigerians, is now based on faith rather than calculable feasibilities. And the discordant tunes within the ruling party and government offer little or no assurances.
The PDP has a golden opportunity now to take up the challenge of providing the alternative platform of governance that will bring succor and relief to the people. This means the party must quickly reorganize itself to face this onerous task because the 2019 general election is less than one and half years away. But is the party conscious of the desperate expectations of the people?
If the PDP stakeholders, both great and small, are correctly feeling the mood and pulse of the masses out there, may be they would have carefully avoided all the controversies, intrigues, alleged conspiracies and counter conspiracies trailing the forthcoming election of its national officers. By allowing these intrigues to fester, the party is sending wrong signals to the people. Perhaps its leaders need some of us in the public space to tell them that the public is watching them to see whether they can no longer perform the very least function of agreeing amongst themselves on the constitution of the party’s leadership as they used to do not too long ago, when the party was truly the biggest and greatest party in Africa and the pride of Nigerians who loved it for its national appeal and ability to carry a large section of the populace along.
Ct of Nigerians are disappointed at the hullabaloo over which geopolitical zone will produce the national chairman and who from that zone will ultimately occupy the post. The bad blood that the struggle between the South-West and the South-South geopolitical zones has generated over the position since last year is neither funny nor amusing but disgusting. The principle of equity, fairness and justice as well the principle of rotation and consensus which stabilized the party in the good old days and which one of its chieftains once referred to as Turn by Turn Nigeria Limited have been thrown overboard. How then can the party reclaim its glory that lay buried in the ashes of its calamitous electoral defeat in 2015 without first restoring the winning principles which brought it fame and glory..
So far six candidates from the South-West, including Chief Olabode George, Otunba Gbenga Daniel and Prof. Tunde Adeniran – are running while at least three from the South-South are also in the race for the post supposedly micro zoned to the South- West. If one may ask, why is this unnecessary confrontation? Was it not in furtherance of micro zoning that ex-governor Adamu Muazu from Bauchi State was chosen some time ago as national chairman to replace ex-governor and elder statesman, Bamanga Tukur from Adamawa state, both of whom are from the North-East? Was it not the same principle that informed the search for another north easterner which threw up ex-governor and Senator Ali Modu Sheriff? Why then is this election so controversial? Why is micro zoning now unbinding when it came to the turn of the South-West?
The leaders of the party in the region have protested but there is no indication that their concern has been taken seriously. Definitely, there is a disconnect between the current happenings and the glorious historical antecedents of the party. Throwing away a best practice that had stabilized and bound the party together for years is dangerous and we can all see the threat of instability starring the party in the face at a critical time it needed cohesion and unity of purpose. From what we have read in the media, there was an agreement or understanding among southern leaders of the party to micro zone the national chairmanship to the South-West last year. And for over a year now, nobody has publicly denied or refuted this decision.
It is remarkable that the South-East geopolitical zone has calmly kept to the said agreement. Thus when some people from the South-South started making moves to violate it, one would have expected the current national leadership of the party to advise the southern leaders and stakeholders to further consult among themselves and resolve the issue rather than flatly pronouncing that micro zoning is not binding. The wrong signal in that statement must be urgently corrected by the national leadership. Such an intervention is very necessary and it will not amount to interference in healthy competition. Rather it will strengthen the possibility of doing the election smoothly through a consensus arrangement which is a time tested, peaceful and rancour-free practice in the party.
Fortunately, some powerful individuals and groups in the party including Governor Ayo Fayose and the PDP Senate caucus have variously expressed preference for the consensus option. These statements are steps in the right direction but let the consensus drive begin with all well meaning stakeholders encouraging the Southern caucus of the party to uphold the agreement or understanding of last year micro zoning the post to the South-West geopolitical zone, in the interest of justice, fairness and equity, bearing in mind that the the region is the only zone that has not occupied the office since the inception of the party in 1998.
The achievement of such consensus among Southern leaders is also in fulfilment of the long standing principle of rotation embraced by the party. And it will right the wrong of 2011 when the position of speaker of the house of representatives, which was zoned to the region, was dramatically and conspiratorially hijacked and given to the North-West. If not for anything else, the PDP has a duty to redeem itself before its members and supporters in the South-West for the region’s perceived marginalization in the immediate past PDP controlled Federal Government. It is the first step to winning back the hearts of the people of the region which the party necessarily needs to coast home to victory in 2019.
However, if the powerful elements from the South-South remain unpersuaded, then the South-West must heed Governor Fayose’s advice and go to the election with one voice behind a consensus candidate chosen from among the contenders from the zone. This should not be a difficult matter if the eminent contestants are ready to put personal ego aside and agree to support the evidently most suitable among them. Indeed one of them, Chief Bode George, was so chosen at a meeting of South-West leaders in Akure, Ondo State, last year. He was chosen for his demonstrable practical ability, consistency, tested and trusted track record of service to the party at several levels and especially at the national level since its inception. If the chairmanship is on merit, George remains the most suitable of the suitable array of candidates from the South-West.